NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan Submission

CPSA's submission to the Long Term Transport Master Plan which plans to establish a plan for transport services across NSW for the next 20 years.

Download: NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan Submission [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 430.39 KB]

Recommendations

  1. Prototypes for new modes of transport, such as bus fleets and train carriages under go on-road testing, complete with passenger feedback, before full procurement.
  2. A system be introduced that enables an easy alert system to users advising them of breakdowns of accessibility measures, particularly lift and escalator maintenance and breakdowns.
  3. CountryLink booking fees should be abolished for first class as there is more room provided on this service which is easier for those with mobility impairements and is also quieter.
  4. Two car endeavour sets should run regularly between rural centres, for example Taree and Coffs Harbour, in addition to current services.
  5. Investment in CountryLink services needs to be increased. CountryLink is a vital means of transport for many living in rural and regional areas. Improving services will also make CountryLink an attractive means of travelling around NSW.
  6. Bus routes and timetables should be reviewed to ensure services meet the needs of the whole community.
  7. Significant additional funding should be provided to Community Transport so that those who require such services find access timely, appropriate and affordable.
  8. Additional funding should be provided for non-emergency health related transport so that Community Transport services are better able to meet the needs of their client groups.
  9. The NSW Government should investigate the inclusion of community transport within the Passenger Transport Act.
  10. The NSW Government should investigate with key stakeholders Demand Responsive Transport programs designed to complement traditional forms of public transport and help relieve the strain placed on community transport services.
  11. A greater proportion of funding should be apportioned to public transport initiatives as well as to services such as community transport and Demand Responsive Transport.
  12. If tolls are charged for road usage, this revenue should be redirected towards sustainable public transport.
  13. An integrated approach with local councils should be taken to ensure that not only transport modes are accessible but the environment enables them to be accessed by all.
  14. When disruptions to travel occur, changes should be clearly outlined in simple language and necessary assistance given.
  15. When buses are required to replace trains due to breakdowns or track work, an accessible station as well as accessible buses should be used.

Introduction

Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW Inc (CPSA) was founded in 1931 in response to pension cuts. CPSA is a non-profit, non-party-political membership association serving the interests of pensioners of all ages, superannuants and low-income retirees.

CPSA has 140 Branches and affiliated organisations with a combined membership of over 30,000 throughout NSW. CPSA serves the interests of its membership and broader constituency at the local, state and federal levels.

CPSA welcomes the opportunity to comment on the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan Discussion Paper (hereafter the Discussion Paper). The availability, accessibility and affordability of public transport are of major concern to our members and wider constituency. CPSA believes that an accessible, well integrated public transport system is a cornerstone for ensuring the social, physical and economic well-being of all in NSW.

In spite of this fundamental role played by transport, many people are unable to access and use the type of transport services that meet their needs. This is commonly referred to as transport disadvantage. Transport disadvantage is most keenly felt in rural and regional NSW as well as Sydney’s outer metropolitan areas. However, particular groups are likely to experience this even in more populated and urbanised locations including older people, people with disability, families with young children, youth, people with medical conditions, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and indigenous communities.

Transport disadvantage can arise from

  • limited or no availability of public transport options;
  • reliance on expensive private transport because of poor or no public transport options;
  • unaffordable transport options,
  • transport services and/or infrastructure not being accessible to people with disability or other mobility impairments; and/or
  • a lack of access to private transport.

CPSA’s submission to the Discussion Paper focuses on reducing transport disadvantage by making recommendations that build upon the work that has already been done. The submission focuses primarily on questions raised in 3.1, 4.1, 4.2, 5.2, 6.1, 6.3, 6.7 and 8.2

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Public Transport in Urban Areas

CPSA’s Members and constituents place high importance on the value of the state’s public transport services. Access to the $2.50 excursion and other concession tickets by pensioners and seniors helps ensure public transport is affordable.

Unfortunately, however, concessional fares are of little value to the many people who are eligible but unable to access services.  Reforms to bus services in particular and public transport services generally have increasingly prioritised commuter services – peak hour services on weekdays directed to the Central Business District – at the expense of non-peak hour services and those that travel through residential areas. Bus services have been cut or modified in order to accommodate commuter-oriented transport, with the re-routing of buses along more major thoroughfares and the reduction in the number of bus stops across a number of areas in Sydney and other major population hubs. Similarly, train services are relatively irregular in off-peak periods and more so the further out a transport user is on the CityRail network.

Apart from a reduction in bus stops and greater walking distances required to get to bus stops, there are a number of other concerns around infrastructure and accessibility. While improvements have been made with an increasing number of accessible train stations, 60% of the CityRail network remains inaccessible. Other access issues include

  • Few low-floor accessible buses in non-metropolitan areas;
  • Some routes having accessible services in one direction, but none on return journeys;
  • Some routes offering  only one accessible vehicle in the morning and one in the afternoon, limiting flexibility for passengers;
  • When accessible bus services break down they are often replaced by non-accessible buses;
  • Non-compliant bus stops and train stations prevent passengers with mobility impairments from using accessible services;
  • Stops that comply with access standards are not actually accessible– due to tree obstructions preventing buses from being able to come up to the curb, for example;
  • In many rural and regional areas, bus stops are on unsealed roads;
  • The height of bus stop platforms in rural and regional areas is inconsistent making it difficult to use bus ramps properly;
  • One section of a trip being accessible but the other not;
  • A lack of adequate information, particularly about routes and times of accessible services: the level of language used is often too complex for consumers, particularly those with limited English or intellectual disabilities;
  • Services that have been made more accessible for one disability may be at the detriment of another disability (for example, new trains have more space for wheelchair access but their quiet doors are to the detriment of visually impaired travellers). Similarly, new accessible red bus metro services are wheelchair accessible but the higher placement of stop buttons proves difficult for those with balance issues.

Recommendation: Prototypes for new modes of transport, such as bus fleets and train carriages under go on-road testing, complete with passenger feedback, before full procurement.

Recommendation: A system be introduced that enables an easy alert system to users advising them of breakdowns of accessibility measures, particularly lift and escalator maintenance and breakdowns.

The Master Plan notes the need to reduce the time and distances spent travelling between home, work and education (and that this will also involve wider planning) and also recognises the need to optimise the use of the public transport network to reduce the strain of increased car dependency. However, the public transport policy focus up to now has not reflected the transport patterns and transport reasons of communities as a whole, nor the transport needs of specific groups in the community who are left with either no or very expensive private transport options.

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CountryLink

CountryLink offers a 50 per cent discount on all its fares to PCC-holders and four free single economy class journeys (covered by Pensioner Travel Vouchers) on CountryLink services within NSW each calendar year. The latter benefit was partly abolished and a booking fee of $10 minimum or 15 per cent of the peak season adult fare introduced. While the booking fee was abolished for second class it continues to apply if the voucher is used for first class travel.

Recommendations: CountryLink booking fees should be abolished for first class as there is more room provided on this service which is easier for those with mobility impairements and is also quieter.

Many people travelling to, from and between rural and regional areas rely on CountryLink services. However, many older people and people with disability find CountryLink services have declined.

Coach services have replaced a number of train services. Although coaches used by CountryLink exceed current Disability Standards for public transport benchmarks, (as most coaches have two wheelchair spaces), travelling by coach is considerably more difficult for people with mobility impairments or medical conditions as they are unable to move around as freely as they would be able to on a train. Passengers are also prohibited from eating or drinking on coaches and have limited or no access to on-board toilets. This can pose problems for people with medical conditions, such as diabetes. In addition, limited assistance is provided on board and when boarding or alighting. This does not only apply to people who use wheelchairs but also those who use other mobility aids such as walkers, walking frames and sticks.

Services provided by CountryLink across NSW are quite limited in frequency and are poorly scheduled.  CountryLink services have a poor on-time running record. Since 2002, services have only met CountryLink’s on-time running record 37 per cent of the time. 

People travelling from rural and regional areas to Sydney for medical and other appointments typically find CountryLink services their only travel option. However, because of inconvenient timetabling, such as the CountryLink service between Dubbo and Sydney, passengers must stay overnight in Sydney. Unnecessary overnight stays because of infrequent services as well as long travel times have a substantial financial impact on individuals because of the need to pay for accommodation. People travelling for health-related purposes may be eligible for reimbursement for some of their travel and accommodation costs through the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS), however, the reimbursement under this scheme is small.

Recommendation: Two car endeavour sets should run regularly between rural centres, for example Taree and Coffs Harbour, in addition to current services.

Apart from ‘on board’ issues, similar access difficulties as those identified in public bus services are present in CountryLink coach services. Walkways and footpaths to accessible bus stops are sometimes obstructed or footpaths damaged, and facilities at bus stops, such as toilets and cafeterias, are not always wheelchair accessible or open at night time.

Additional barriers within some rural areas include the fact that often the only means of transport into town is a school bus, which does not run during the school holiday breaks. CPSA would like to see buses be available on all business days throughout the year.

Recommendation: Investment in CountryLink services needs to be increased. CountryLink is a vital means of transport for many living in rural and regional areas. Improving services will also make CountryLink an attractive means of travelling around NSW.

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Community Transport

When considering improvements to the current public transport network it is important to also consider the role of community transport in meeting the transportation needs of older people and people with disability.

Community transport services are already stretched and unmet need is evident across the state. Meanwhile demand is increasing particularly due to population ageing and increasing complex needs. A continuing rationing of services is unsustainable. CPSA notes and has welcomed the additional $12million in funding over four years of a more flexible Community Transport Program. However, this funding needs to become recurrent beyond the initial four-year period. Furthermore, given the social, health and economic benefits of providing services to those who are unable to access mainstream public transport, cannot afford or cannot use private transport or who have no or limited public transport options in their vicinity, additional funding – particularly directed to NSW Health for non-emergency health-related transport – will be necessary with an ageing population and a growing population with more people with complex needs.

It should also be noted that the Community Transport Organisation and other organisations with an interest in community transport services have been calling for community transport to be included within the Passenger Transport Act. This will allow for a more cohesive approach with other transport methods and ensure that it can be adequately regulated. CPSA believes that this warrants serious consideration given the community’s need for a greater number of community transport services, a better integration of those services with mainstream public transport services as well as service types that fit in between both the community transport and public transport modes (such as demand responsive transport as discussed below)

Recommendation: Bus routes and timetables should be reviewed to ensure services meet the needs of the whole community.

Recommendation: Significant additional funding should be provided to Community Transport so that those who require such services find access timely, appropriate and affordable.

Recommendation: Additional funding should be provided for non-emergency health related transport so that Community Transport services are better able to meet the needs of their client groups.

Recommendation: The NSW Government should investigate the inclusion of community transport within the Passenger Transport Act.

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Demand Responsive Transport (DRT)

Currently, Sydney’s transport system is made up of a large public transport network of mainstream services – heavy rail, buses, ferries and a light rail service – supplemented by Community Transport initiatives specifically targeted towards certain demographics. As discussed above, community transport is a specialised service, which is only able to provide limited services. It also invariably comes at a considerably higher cost to the patron than would a mainstream service, generally $5 to $10 a return trip.

In between mainstream public transport services and community transport, there is a wide gap of unmet need. As alluded to earlier, with the streamlining of public transport services, this gap will only increase as community transport in its current form cannot meet additional demand. Unmet need exists as a result of the limited services provided by community transport and because people do not qualify for community transport. The Western Sydney Community Forum has termed this gap as the “360 metre gap”. This gap, which often turns out to be much bigger, refers to those who cannot access community transport “but find the distance to the nearest bus stop too difficult and are left without access to a service able to meet their needs”.[1]

With the streamlining of public transport services, “there has been an outcry from many older people who … (feel) this as social exclusion because their bus routes have changed and they can no longer access the services they once enjoyed”.[2] The public transport framework must therefore be flexible to meet the needs of various groups. Such solutions must be well-integrated with current services and must be flexible to ensure that they take into account demographic changes over time and are able to change, grow or contract as demand changes.

CPSA believes that the NSW Government should investigate a number of DRT options with key stakeholders such as the Community Transport Organisation, community transport providers and other transport providers as well as Local Governments and community organisations. DRT has the ability to significantly reduce the ‘360m gap’, ensuring everybody has access to appropriate transport services. A further advantage of introducing well integrated, designed and comprehensive DRT services is that community transport is relieved of much of its demand. Community transport providers would therefore be able to focus on maintaining and improving the independence of those who most need community transport.

DRT services are becoming commonplace around Europe and are also being utilised in other parts of the world. They can offer a combination of fixed route and demand responsive services, enabling passengers to be picked up and dropped off anywhere along or within the bus route or zone.  A number of Dial-A-Ride services have been established in other states of Australia, including South Australia with RoamZone operating in six locations in metropolitan Adelaide and Melbourne with the Telebus network servicing five suburbs in the city’s east. Melbourne’s telebus network offers a very comprehensive approach to integrating DRT into the public transport network and deserves close consideration.

Recommendation: The NSW Government should investigate with key stakeholders Demand Responsive Transport programs designed to complement traditional forms of public transport and help relieve the strain placed on community transport services.

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Funding

Much concern has been raised in recent years with regards to the level of funding apportioned to roads as compared to public transport. Road upgrades and expansions, including adding extra lanes on the M2 and M5, come at a significantly higher dollars-per-kilometre cost than investment in public transport infrastructure. Motorway construction and expansions encourage further private vehicle use at the expense public transport.  Greater focus and funding should be directed to various modes of public transport, especially missing public transport connections and alternative transport modes such as DRT.

Recommendation: A greater proportion of funding should be apportioned to public transport initiatives as well as to services such as community transport and Demand Responsive Transport.

CPSA does not support the public-private partnership (PPP) model for delivering transport infrastructure or services. In transport, PPPs have led to perverse and negative policy outcomes, such as ticket surcharges on the airport line and the inability of the government to improve public transport services around privately-owned roadways lest the owner demand compensation for reduced usage.

The NSW Government should rather look at the costs associated with not making significant changes to our current mode of transport usage around the state. These external costs include increased car dependency which involves both increased costs for the individual and household as well as those borne by the public such as road maintenance and upgrades; road accidents; CO2 emissions; and health costs as a result of pollution and physical inactivity. In the case of transport disadvantaged groups and older people and people with disability in particular, further external costs are felt by both the individual and the public because of social isolation and higher dependency on care services.

Recommendation: If tolls are charged for road usage, this revenue should be redirected towards sustainable public transport initiatives.

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Barriers to Multiple Transport Modes

As noted by the Discussion Plan, people use multiple transport modes for their journey. As a result, a barrier at one mode can compromise the entire trip.

This goes beyond merely various timetables not matching up, resulting in a journey taking much longer than necessary. All modes of transport, including footpaths and roads, must be accessible.  User friendly transport is particularly important for older people and people with disabilities as it provides opportunities to engage with local communities. Commonly cited problems that deter older people or those with mobility issues from walking include uneven and/or narrow footpaths, inadequate lighting, inadequate shade and rest areas, inconvenient crossing locations, short pedestrian cycles at signal-controlled crossings and safety fears.

In NSW many neighbourhoods have been built without taking the diverse needs of older people and those with mobility difficulties into account. Statistics on pedestrian fatalities provide a bleak example of the consequences: while people aged 70 years and over represent 10 per cent of NSW residents, they account for one third of pedestrian fatalities.[3]

There is also a need for clear language on signs and voice over announcements, particularly when a journey is disrupted or an alternative route is required to be taken.

Making cities and communities age-friendly is one of the most effective policy approaches for responding to demographic ageing. This involves working with older people to ensure that services are conveniently located and accessible and ensuring that footpaths, roads, buildings and other public spaces are easily to navigate.

There is a need to ensure the linking of accessible transport services to accessible locations, such as shopping centres and railway stations. Currently, there are situations where, particularly during track work, rail commuters are required to alight from the train at an inaccessible station and climb stairs to transfer to a bus. There is a lack of cohesion between modes and a policy of seamless travel should be adopted to ensure that all modes have accessibility integrated into all areas, and not be included as merely a separate policy. A seamless travel policy should include not only accessible vehicles and departure points but also accessible ticketing and ticket validation points as well as a barrier free pedestrian environment in order to remove current barriers to participation.

Recommendation: An integrated approach with local councils should be taken to ensure that not only transport modes are accessible but the environment enables them to be accessed by all.

Recommendation: When disruptions to travel occur, changes should be clearly outlined in simple language and necessary assistance given.

Recommendation: When buses are required to replace trains due to breakdowns or track work, an accessible station as well as accessible buses should be used.

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[1] Worrall, H. 2009. Discussion Paper: The problem of the ‘360m gap’, Western Sydney Community Forum.

[2] ibid.

[3] Roads and Maritime Services, Vulnerable Pedestrians, URL: http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/pedestrians/vulnerablepedestrians/index.html (Accessed 24 April 2012).

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